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Stop the Meeting Madness

The pain associated with meetings has real consequences for organizations

Poking fun at meetings is the stuff of Dilbert cartoons—we can all joke about how soul-sucking and painful they are. But that pain has real consequences for teams and organizations. In our interviews with hundreds of executives, in fields ranging from high tech and retail to pharmaceuticals and consulting, many said they felt overwhelmed by their meetings—whether formal or informal, traditional or agile, face-to-face or electronically mediated. One said, “I cannot get my head above water to breathe during the week.” Another described stabbing her leg with a pencil to stop from screaming during a particularly torturous staff meeting.

Such complaints are supported by research showing that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s. And that doesn’t even include all the impromptu gatherings that don’t make it onto the schedule.

Much has been written about this problem, but the solutions posed are usually discrete: Establish a clear agenda, hold your meeting standing up, delegate someone to attend in your place, and so on. We’ve observed in our research and consulting that real improvement requires systemic change, because meetings affect how people collaborate and how they get their own work done.

Please select this link to read the complete article from Harvard Business Review.

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